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Botswana Reports Good Voter Turnout in General Election

By Delia Robertson
16 October 2009

Voters in Botswana are moving through polling stations in steady streams in a general election likely to return the ruling Botswana Democratic Party to power.

Some voters left their homes as early as 4 a.m. local time to be in time for the opening of polling stations two hours later, and voters moved through polling stations at a steady pace throughout the day.

Reports from the capital Gaborone, said there were no incidents that prevented people from voting.

About 700,000 Batswana are registered to vote and Joseph Gaie, lecturer in political ethics at Botswana University in Gaborone, told VOA a good turnout had been expected.

"Well a lot of people, elderly people take this as a duty - every five years they have to go and vote," said Joseph Gaie. "And then a lot of youth that have just come, this will be the first time that 18-year-olds vote, so they are very excited about it."

This poll is the first political test for President Ian Khama who has not previously led his ruling Botswana Democratic Party into an election. Since he came to power last year, he has locked horns with some senior officials in the party and observers are keenly awaiting the election result to see whether this has had an impact on traditional party support.

The two major opposition parties, the Botswana National Front and the Botswana Congress Party, are hoping to do much better this time than in previous elections and have indicated they may cooperate in parliament after the poll.

Botswana is a stable democracy that has seen consistent economic growth in the 43 years since it won independence from Britain. That growth is largely due to exports from the country's diamond industry which suffered dramatically in the global economic crisis. The net effect of that has seen an 11.5 percent contraction of the economy in the year that ended in June 2009.

The election result will be known on Saturday.

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